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New Mercedes-Benz S-Class stops and steers itself

Redesigned luxury sedan showcases technologies that get us closer to an autonomous car

Published: September 16, 2013 12:00 PM
Technology makes the Mercedes-Benz S-Class that much closer to a self-driving car.

It will be many years before self-driving cars come rolling over the horizon, but they’re getting closer all the time, as evidenced by the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class luxury sedan we recently drove.

Carmakers have steadily been introducing new features incorporating pieces of technology that add situational awareness to vehicles and limited ability to react or warn, as needed. When linked and with further enhancements, these safety systems will ultimately enable cars to handle at least some of the driving some of the time.

Mercedes-Benz visited our Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut, to show off its latest developments, which will be available on the redesigned S-Class flagship going on sale next month. The S-Class we sampled was packed to its panoramic sunroof with 30 standard and optional safety features. Some of those are part of the $2,800 Driver Assistance Package, which is designed to help prevent and avoid crashes with or without the driver’s help. (Learn more about car safety.)

Using a combination of cameras, sensors, and radar, the safety suite enables the S-Class to accelerate and decelerate with traffic, and even nudge the wheel and apply braking pressure on one side of the car to keep it in its lane. The S-Class can detect traffic approaching in an intersection and apply brakes accordingly. And if the driver does not react to a vehicle or pedestrian in its path, it can also bring the car to a stop from speeds up to 31 mph.

A low-tech dummy bravely stands there during a demo of the high-tech system.

The carmaker brought a couple of new S-Class models to our Auto Test Center to demonstrate the technology. Among the entourage was a rather decidedly low-tech-looking dummy (shown).

To the carmaker’s credit and no doubt to the relief of the dummy, the cars repeatedly and reliably stopped within inches of his scary-looking self, after first giving the driver ample time to steer around him or stop the car. The system works fast, first warning the driver of danger, then precharging the brakes and snugging safety belts before taking action if the driver does not. All of this happens in about three seconds, bringing the big sedan to a stop from 30 mph with remarkably little drama.

We also had a chance to experience the corrective steering and braking functions, which gently help keep the car in its lane with or without the driver’s assistance—even at highway speeds. 

We applaud these safety developments and look forward to their availability in more reasonably priced cars soon. But if you’re hoping for the latest safety technology and a hot-stone massage feature in your next car, you’re going to have to spring for the new S-Class. Prices start at $92,900.

—Jim Travers

To the carmaker’s credit and no doubt to the relief of the dummy, the cars repeatedly and reliably stopped within inches of his scary-looking self, after first giving the driver ample time to steer around him or stop the car. The system works fast, first warning the driver of danger, then pre-charging the brakes and snugging safety belts before taking action, if the driver does not. All of this happens in about three seconds, bringing the big sedan to a stop from 30 mph with remarkably little drama.

We also had a chance to experience the corrective steering and braking functions, that oh-so gently help keep the car in its lane with or without the driver’s help—even at highway speeds.

We applaud these safety developments and look forward to their availability in more reasonably priced cars soon. But if you’re hoping for the latest safety technology and a hot stone massage feature in your next car, you’re going to have to spring for the new S-Class. Prices start at $92,900.

—Jim Travers

 

The carmaker brought a couple of new S-Class models to our Auto Test Center to demonstrate the technology, along with one rather decidedly low-tech looking dummy.

To the carmaker’s credit and no doubt to the relief of the dummy, the cars repeatedly and reliably stopped within inches of his scary-looking self, after first giving the driver ample time to steer around him or stop the car. The system works fast, first warning the driver of danger, then pre-charging the brakes and snugging safety belts before taking action, if the driver does not. All of this happens in about three seconds, bringing the big sedan to a stop from 30 mph with remarkably little drama.

We also had a chance to experience the corrective steering and braking functions, that oh-so gently help keep the car in its lane with or without the driver’s help—even at highway speeds.

We applaud these safety developments and look forward to their availability in more reasonably priced cars soon. But if you’re hoping for the latest safety technology and a hot stone massage feature in your next car, you’re going to have to spring for the new S-Class. Prices start at $92,900.

—Jim Travers

 

The carmaker brought a couple of new S-Class models to our Auto Test Center to demonstrate the technology, along with one rather decidedly low-tech looking dummy.

To the carmaker’s credit and no doubt to the relief of the dummy, the cars repeatedly and reliably stopped within inches of his scary-looking self, after first giving the driver ample time to steer around him or stop the car. The system works fast, first warning the driver of danger, then pre-charging the brakes and snugging safety belts before taking action, if the driver does not. All of this happens in about three seconds, bringing the big sedan to a stop from 30 mph with remarkably little drama.

We also had a chance to experience the corrective steering and braking functions, that oh-so gently help keep the car in its lane with or without the driver’s help—even at highway speeds.

We applaud these safety developments and look forward to their availability in more reasonably priced cars soon. But if you’re hoping for the latest safety technology and a hot stone massage feature in your next car, you’re going to have to spring for the new S-Class. Prices start at $92,900.

—Jim Travers

 
   

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